Learning Abroad Center

Pre-Departure List


  1. Application
  2. Acceptance
  3. Pre-departure Orientation
  4. Pre-departure Documents
  5. Prepare a Study Abroad Folder
  6. Financial Plan
  7. Communicating


Students must complete an online application and submit all materials to the Learning Abroad Center and/or the organization that is organizing the student's program. These materials typically include an application, essay, letters of recommendation and a transcript. 

It is also important to review the Eligibility Policies.


Once a student is accepted, the student needs to submit essential forms to be considered a confirmed participant. These materials typically include the confirmation deposit, the release and waiver, housing form and other materials. A list of confirmation materials is provided to each student.

At acceptance it is also important to review the Cancellation Policy.

Pre-departure Orientation

A mandatory pre-departure orientation is scheduled for all students participating in a program through the Learning Abroad Center. At orientation, students receive program information and tips on cultural adjustment, as well as have the opportunity to speak to past participants. These orientations are mandatory for all students within 100 miles of the Twin Cities, and parents are welcome to attend. There is also an orientation for parents available in-person each semester, or the Parent Orientation is available online. In-person orientation dates and locations are provided to students.

Pre-departure Documents


A passport is an official government document that proves one's citizenship. A valid passport is required to enter another country. Participants should apply for a passport as soon as possible. Since passports can take as long as four weeks to process, it is wise to begin early. Passports must be valid for the entire period of time abroad. If a participant's passport is set to expire while they are abroad, then they should renew it prior to departure. Many foreign countries will not issue a visa if the passport is due to expire within six months of the application. Further information is available at Passports & Visas.


Many governments require a visa for entry into their country. A visa is official/legal permission to enter a country for a stated purpose and specified period of time and is granted by the government of that country. Depending on the length of a participant's stay and the program location, it may be necessary for the participant to apply for a visa. Participants on Learning Abroad Center programs will receive visa information in program specific materials or at the pre-departure orientation. Participants enrolled in other programs should check with their sponsor regarding visa information. In all cases, since visas can take several weeks to process, it is important that the participant follow the directions provided by their sponsor. Further information on host country visa requirements is available at Passport & Visas.

Power of Attorney/Attorney-in Fact

The Learning Abroad Center urges students who are studying abroad to select a trusted parent or other person to receive Power of Attorney to take care of unanticipated financial and personal affairs while they are out of the country. A student with financial aid through the University of Minnesota may require the assistance of their Attorney-in-Fact to deal with issues such as completing financial aid paperwork or to deposit financial aid checks. Any student may require assistance with banking, insurance transactions or another legal matter. See the Power of Attorney policy for more details.

Prepare a Study Abroad Folder

Copy of every important document

  • passport
  • visa
  • acceptance letter from the Learning Abroad Center
  • credit & debit cards photocopies (front & back)
  • CISI international travel, health, and security insurance information, copies of claim forms, copy of card
  • all flight information and tickets
  • lodging information, if leaving early or coming back after the program
  • International Student Identity Card Info (if your student purchased the card)

Banking Information

Document all of your student's banking information including directions of how to transfer money between savings and checking. We recommend that students have a parent or other trusted person as a co-signer on their accounts.

Financial Aid Information

Tax Preparation Information

If students are abroad during the spring semester, they should make arrangements to either have their Power of Attorney file the appropriate tax forms by the stated deadline or contact the IRS to discuss the option of an extension. Students receive their 1098T (tax education credit information) for tax reporting purposes in early February for the previous calendar year. The required information for tax reporting purposes is reflected as eligible and non-eligible. The Learning Abroad Center cannot provide this information to individuals nor assist with the form. Students or their Power of Attorney can contact the Office of Student Finance for more information.


Students who are overseas during local, state or national elections are advised to arrange for absentee voting. Students need to complete an application for an absentee ballot. They may need help from a friend or family member if, at the time of application, they do not know their overseas address. More information on absentee voting can be obtained by visiting the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Further information on voting while abroad is provided by the Overseas Vote Foundation.

Basic Vocabulary

Ask your student to prepare a list of phrases (including phonetic pronunciations) in the appropriate language that you could use when calling your student, such as "Is Sara there?" "This is her mother" "This is not an emergency", etc. 

Contact Information

Ask your student to collect the following phone numbers and/or email addresses

  • his/her phone number and address in the host country
  • his/her travel agent
  • the contact person at his/her site abroad*
  • his/her academic adviser
  • Learning Abroad Center staff*
  • other critical University, such as Office of Student Finance or Business Office*
  • the international numbers of the people with whom s/he will be traveling and the domestic telephone numbers of their parents
    *included in the Program Guide or program materials

Financial Plan

Money Matters

Preparing for financial needs during a study abroad experience requires planning and foresight. Tips for navigating this process as well as financial aid and scholarship information is available at Financial Information

Participants need easy access to money while overseas and should have a variety of methods to access cash while abroad. We recommend that families be as generous as possible if helping with the budget to allow participants to take full advantage of travel and sightseeing opportunities during this unique experience. Budget estimates are provided to students upon acceptance into the program. Review this information with the participant in order to plan accordingly. Spending allowances will vary greatly, depending upon a participant's personal spending habits, exchange rate, individual arrangements (e.g., urban vs. rural living), travel plans and length of stay.

Additional restrictions and recommendations for program locations are addressed at the country-specific pre-departure orientation. Review all pre-departure materials with your student, including program handbooks, for country-specific money matters.

Currency Before Departure

If possible, students should have some of the host country's currency on hand upon arrival. Some foreign currency may be difficult to find in the Twin Cities or in your local area, and participants will usually find exchange banks at their point of entry or at a major international airport in the US. Participants should keep in mind the hour of arrival to determine if banks at the airport will be open. Having enough in hand at least for cab fare would eliminate the need to stand in line at the airport (where exchange rates typically are less favorable than at banks).

Debit Cards

In many major cities, debit cards can be used. This is a convenient way to access money and offers the best exchange rate. Before leaving the country, participants should check with their local banks to see if any debit cards offered (like Cirrus or Plus) are widely used in the country of destination.

Most major credit cards can also be used for instant cash at machines if a PIN number is assigned to the account. The back of the credit card will state whether it is a Cirrus or a Plus card. Cash can also be withdrawn on a credit card account in the participant's name at most major banks with a passport for identification. Transaction fees may be assessed each time a withdrawal is made and, consequently, it may be best to request large amounts to minimize the number of fees.

Credit Cards

We recommend that all participants carry a major credit card in their name. VISA and Mastercard are accepted in most program locations and in major cities. Depending on the program location, some credit cards are more accepted than others, and in a few cases credit card use may be very limited. Students are strongly encouraged to confirm this before s/he has arrived. Students also should notify their credit card company that they will be out of the country and provide the dates of the international experience. Some credit card companies will flag "suspicious activity" and freeze accounts if they note numerous charges from overseas.

Even if payment by credit card is not preferred for daily expenditures, a credit card might be important in case of emergency. In addition, major credit cards are well protected and easy to replace if lost. Merchandise and air tickets purchased with a major credit card may also be protected if lost or stolen (check individual card policies and the Fair Credit and Billing Act). A process for payment of credit card bills should be established before the participant's departure from the US.

Money Belts

To keep money, passport and other important materials safe abroad, money belts and other similar devices kept close to the body are best.

Black Market

Although it may be tempting to exchange currency for a better price via the black market, it is important for participants to understand the legal repercussions. Black market transfers are illegal and often dangerous. Participants caught engaging in black market activities will be dismissed from the program.



Mail service can be slow, taking from seven days to a month for first class airmail. Surfacemail will generally take two to three months but provides an inexpensive way to send additional clothing or other items to participants planning a longer stay. You should include an itemized list of the contents in the package and check with the US postal service or a private delivery service for any restrictions. We recommend, however, that you do not send items of great value through the regular mail service.

We encourage you to save the letters and emails written to you over the course of your student's program. It can be a nice way for all of you to trace the changes and discoveries that occur during a study abroad experience.


Students will have access to email but it may not be as readily available to them as it is in the US.  Friends and family members should be aware that it is not always easy or convenient to send an email home immediately upon arrival in the host country. In some cases it may take several days for a student to do so.


In general, it is much more expensive to call to the US from another country than to call from the US to a location overseas. Calling collect from another country to the US is most likely less expensive than dialing direct and paying local rates from another country.

Some programs require that students purchase and carry cell phones at all times. Even if a program does not require cell phones, most students do purchase them once they are abroad. Phone cards are convenient and offer competitive rates. Alternatively, students may wish to pre-arrange a date and time to receive a call from the US to a specified number. However, if the student does not have a cell phone and is staying with a host families, please keep in mind that they may be reticent to allow long distance or local telephone calls to be made or received in the home, as there may be a charge for each use of the phone. Most countries do not itemize their bills the way we do in the US, which makes it impossible for the host family to know the cost of each individual call. 

Again, friends and family members should be aware that it is not always easy or convenient for a participant to call home immediately upon arrival in the host country. Our on-site staff will contact the Learning Abroad Center if anyone doesn't arrive as expected. The Learning Abroad Center will in turn try to reach the student or contact the student's emergency contact. So, no news at arrival is good news and parents can assume the student has arrived safe and sound.